LV County Championship Group 2, Somerset v Middlesex, Taunton, April 29th to May 2nd Day 3 Somerset 268 (Bartlett 55) and 209-6 (Abell 49, Davies 44*, Goldsworthy 41*) beat Middlesex 357 and 117 (Overton 5-34, Davey 3-28) by 4 wickets
Middlesex probably won’t want to come up against another Lewis for a while. They probably breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday when Lewis Gregory, who compiled the match-winning innings at Lord’s four weeks ago, was ruled out for this game on Saturday morning under the current COVID protocols. They didn’t reckon with Somerset’s other Lewis, the young Cornishman with ice in his veins who seemed on debut to have been winning close games for his side for years.
The visitors would have rightly figured that Gregory’s absence for Middlesex’s second innings would be a key factor. He would have revelled in the conditions yesterday. But Josh Davey and principally Craig Overton more than made up for Gregory’s absence reducing the third innings of this game to rubble in an exhilarating afternoon.
Somerset started the fourth day with George Bartlett joining Tom Abell with 103 still needed. A tense opening half hour only reduced the requirement by 19 runs but at the price of these two, both lbw to Tim Murtagh for 49 and 12 respectively. Both lbw playing shots they won’t look back on with any fondness.
Goldsworthy and Davies settled to their task knowing that there was no margin for error. The next 90 minutes produced cricket of the highest order. Middlesex’s bowlers, Murtagh and Finn in particular gave nothing away while Goldsworthy and Davies strove to keep their alliance together. The balance between bat and ball was so fine that you felt any ball could be a match-defining one. And remarkably while three of the four principal protagonists at this time were hugely experienced county professionals, the diminutive young tyro lost nothing in comparison.
When Murtagh needed to take a rest the support bowling could not maintain the pressure. The Somerset pair began to see regular run-scoring opportunities. Two sumptuous Davies cover drives and a brutal hook/pull by Goldsworthy will linger long in the memory.
As lunch approached, the scoring rate increased and the possibility of all being done without an afternoon session which had all but disappeared began to seem possible. Peter Hanscomb, the Aussie captain of Middlesex who had been particularly passive in the field throughout this game made two big calls in this phase both of which did not go well for him. The first was to ask Finn, who had bowled with metronomic accuracy to change his approach to Goldsworthy, the second was having to recall Murtagh having little other option.
When the umpires called for lunch at the scheduled time Somerset were just 19 runs away from victory. Very frustrating but apparently the correct interpretation of the playing conditions.
Most Somerset supporters would have turned thoughts round in their heads in the interval that there was still another twist in the tale so when the resumption was delayed it seemed the fates were having a final play with our emotions. For once though we were not asked to ride the emotional roller coaster one more time. Fittingly Lewis Goldsworthy sealed the win dispatching a Holman full toss to the ropes and triggering joy across the South-West and beyond.
This was a display of maturity that deserves the highest praise from Goldsworthy. Steven Davies was magnificent with the bat and I’m sure a huge help to the Cornish debutant. And Jason Kerr deserves huge praise as well. There are plenty ready to heap opprobrium on the coach at any opportunity. He got this one spot on.
While I don’t want to heap the weight of expectation on such young shoulders Somerset have something very special here, most importantly the talent matches the temperament. Lewis the younger seems to be to be someone who will cope with the “pressure” certain to come his way. The questions around the line-up for Hampshire can wait a couple of days but Goldsworthy has given the Somerset brains trust plenty to think about.
The fourth round of games in this group saw the gap at the top close. Leaders Hampshire picked up only one point from their trouncing at The Oval allowing Somerset (eight-point deduction included) to move a point ahead of them. Disappointingly Gloucestershire were able to beat Leicestershire at Bristol despite being behind for most of the game. They now lead the group by 14 points.
A final thought for Yorkshire and Northamptonshire supporters. If we think our nerves have been put through the ringer over the last four days these two played out an even more nail-biting finish with the White Rose getting home by one run.
It’s not easy being a county cricket supporter. Its definitely not easy being a Somerset supporter but on days like this it is worth every second.